By Marlene Kern Fischer of Thoughts From Aisle Four
A local mother-of-three was admitted to a rehab facility for treatment after becoming addicted to the parent portal. The doctor who admitted her said that he had been seeing her condition more frequently and had even suggested a formal diagnosis for the disorder be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
The mother, who at first resisted using the portal, tried emailing and even calling her youngest son’s teachers regarding his grades, only to be told that the information she requested was available online and that they “preferred to communicate on academic matters solely through the portal.”
When she pressed them for more human contact, they demurred, saying that school district policy dictated that high school students were to self-advocate and interaction with parents was to be limited to Open School Night, school performances and behavioral issues. With no other option available, the mother, who was not particularly tech savvy, began logging onto the portal regularly to learn how to access her son’s tests and assignments. Having not had the parent portal available when her two older sons were students, the mother was amazed at the wealth of information the portal provided.
She soon found herself visiting the portal daily and also trolling the open-access eBoards and Google Classrooms to find out everything that was going on in her son’s classes, what his homework assignments were and when all his assessments would take place. The mom went from being barely involved to becoming a “helicopter parent” in a matter of weeks.
While on the portal one afternoon, the mom, who wished to be identified only as “Lisa,” said she saw a grade being entered and her son’s average being updated. After that, she was helplessly addicted. She kept logging on, hoping to see more grades and get another “hit.” The longer it took a teacher to post a grade after an assessment, the more frequently she would log on.
Lisa tried to stop several times but kept getting sucked back in each time she saw a new grade had been posted. She tried to hide her addiction, telling her family she was on the computer looking at handbags, when she was actually sneaking a peak at the portal. The situation became dire when she stopped showering, blogging, and going to the grocery store.
While interviewed at the rehab facility, the mother said that she was starting to feel better and, with the support of her family and doctors, knew she could be cured. Her husband offered to check the portal for her and her son promised to be more forthcoming with grades and assignments so that she would not need to go online.
Lisa shared her story as a cautionary tale for other parents at risk for portal addiction. She hoped that schools would hear her story and understand that there was value in reaching out to parents through the old fashioned method of phone calls and emails and that the portal was no substitute for personal contact.
About the Author
Marlene Kern Fischer is a wife, mother of three sons, food shopper extraordinaire, lifelong writer, blogger and college essay editor. She graduated cum laude from Brandeis University with a degree in literature. Her work has been featured on CollegiateParent, Kveller, Grown and Flown, the Erma Bombeck Writers’s Workshop, Her View From Home, Beyond Your Blog and Better After 50. You can read more of her work on her blog: Thoughts From Aisle Four.